Yemenis seek justice for 'unlawful' US drone strike killings

Yemenis seek justice for 'unlawful' US drone strike killings
Two Yemeni families filed a petition against the US government over a drone killing of dozens of family members nearly a decade ago.
3 min read
Two Yemenis filed a petition against the US government [Getty]

Two Yemeni families have filed a petition this week against the US government over the "unlawful" killing of 34 relatives, including nine children, in counter-terrorism operations, said human rights group Reprieve.

The families suffered enormous loss of life and property between 2013 and 2018 in six drone strikes and a special operations raid, said Reprieve, which submitted the petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the families on Tuesday.

"It is averred that the seven attacks at issue have resulted in the unlawful killing of at least 48 people, including 17 children, and in the serious injury of at least seven others, as well as the destruction of their personal property and livelihoods," said the petition seen by AFP.

Of those killed, 34 were members of the Al-Ameri and Al-Taisy families, who are requesting the commission urge the US government to take immediate measures to prevent further harm as it reviews the files -- often a long process that could take years.

The first strike, which took place in December 2013 under the administration of then-president Barack Obama, targeted a wedding procession convoy, killing at least 12 people, including seven Al-Ameri family members and five people from the Al-Taisy family, according to the filing.

A local security official at the time told AFP some of the dead were suspected members of Al-Qaeda.

The Al-Ameri and Al-Taisy families deny any connection to the jihadist group.

The petition comes just days after US President Joe Biden took office and it puts the spotlight on America's long-running bombing campaign against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), on which the US rarely comments.

'Last resort'

According to analysts, AQAP's capabilities on the ground have largely diminished over the past decade, apart from a brief uptick of activity amid the ongoing war between the internationally recognised Yemeni government and Iran-aligned Huthi rebels that broke out in 2014.

Since the 2013 convoy incident, six other operations were carried out, all under Biden's predecessor Donald Trump, during whose administration the US stepped up its campaign in Yemen, according to US Central Command (CENTCOM) data published by US media.

"What the families are hoping for from the commission is first and foremost recognition of the harm that's been done to them," Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer with Reprieve, told AFP on Thursday.

"They've tried time and time again to engage the Yemeni and US governments to stop the strikes, and yet they've continued," she said.

"The commission, for them, is a last resort to try to put forward evidence to say 'you're making a mistake, whatever you think it is we've done, we've not done, please stop the strikes'."

The Biden administration signalled on Wednesday a fresh look at US policy in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that his top priorities would include addressing the catastrophe for civilians in Yemen, where US ally Saudi Arabia has been bombarding Huthi rebels.

The State Department said it was temporarily pausing arms sales authorised by Trump, including munitions to Saudi Arabia and a $23 billion package of cutting-edge F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates.

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